I like to imagine it sometimes. A life without mental illness.
The world would be so bright. Mine for the taking. All of my insecurities and insane fears sloughed off to reveal the ease and beauty of a hale, healthy mind.
Meeting someone and not psychoanalyzing every single gesture and tone change. Relaxing into social situations and allowing my guard to fall, as if it had never been there.
Being able to have an argument with someone without having a mental breakdown. Talking my problems out instead of holding it all inside until it’s about to explode.
I would be more confident in my writing. The words would flow like honey from my fingers, a slow but steady drip of beauty.
I could keep a job for longer than a few months, keep up with a hobby for longer than a few months, and perhaps even keep a boyfriend long enough to make a life with him.
It’s not just a fantasy — on good days, I’ve been there. On good days, I can talk to anyone, make a smart remark to a passerby, strike up a conversation with a stranger. My fears fall away like they never even existed, like they were never a part of me in the first place.
Happiness suffuses my soul. On good days, I am a different Sam. A Sam who appreciates the world in a deeper, more beautiful way. A Sam who wants to live, who wants to carry on in this wondrous world we call home. A Sam who wants to write, not just for her own healing, but to empower others to take charge of their own souls as well.
Maybe it’s not healthy to idealize those good days. But honestly, sometimes they’re all I have to hold onto. They help me know that I’m not completely crazy, that some small part of my mind is still open to the sunshine.
I often feel like the world is fracturing beneath my feet. Like I’m losing control of every single aspect that is under my influence. Like everything is wrong and will never be right and it’s all my fault.
It’s exhausting, to always be anticipating the end of the world. Emotional flashbacks intensify that feeling, splatter it all over my soul like a paintbrush full of toxic waste, and sometimes I crack under the pressure. Things in my life tend to fall apart specifically because of my fear that they will fall apart. Relationships, jobs, passions, plans — nothing seems to last and it’s all because of this endless fear.
I don’t know why I feel good on some days and not on others. I’ve tried to gather data about it but it all just seems random, no matter how much I meditate or exercise or eat right. Sometimes I’ll meet someone who seems to have no underlying mental issues and they’re not happy every day, so at least the variation seems common — no neurotypical person is constantly is in a constant state of bliss.
I like to look at it this way: the highs are higher and the lows are lower when you’re mentally ill. When the world looks bleak and sad to me, I want to kill myself. When I’m happy, I feel like I’m walking on a cloud and able to accomplish just about anything I set my mind on.
A constant seesaw between bliss and hell. It really makes you appreciate the good and the bad in life, when they slap you in the face so sharply at each turn.
Life is different with mental illness. Before neurotypicals judge, I think it would be helpful to see the flipside. Imagine if you had no control over your mood or your emotions and every time you tried to connect with people, they hurt you. Imagine you had a good day yesterday but can’t get out of bed today. These problems are not made up, they’re not “just” in our minds — they are real issues, real sicknesses that may be invisible to the naked eye.
Instead of ignoring those cries for help from our mentally ill brothers and sisters, why don’t we agree that life is full of highs and lows for all of us?
We could all use a little more understanding and a little less judgement. It’s not easy, being mentally ill in a neurotypical wonderland.
Sam Ripples is an essayist and novelist living in southern Colorado. She has an interest in words that provide the mind, body, and soul with rejuvenation and hope. You can follow her on Twitter here.
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I may not have all of the answers right this second, but I do know this: I am not going to give up.